Scripts, Scripts, Scripts … They come in all fonts and sizes, but if there’s one thing they all have in common, it’s that they’re nearly always written for the page and not for the voice.
As well as talking, a lot of listening goes on in a voice over session and when starting out you’ll find it difficult to remember every bit of direction you’re given when behind the mic. Being able to quickly mark your script with your own personal shorthand will help you lift the words off the page and make your delivery sound more believable and natural. It’s essential if you are to interpret your clients direction and successfully make your way to the end of the script.
Marking melodic vocal changes, choosing the right inflections, underlining words that need more stress, highlighting plosives, identifying difficult pronunciations, deciding where to pause for breath, pacing and attitude within your script, creates the “scaffolding” for a great delivery.
Here are 5 top tips and a basic script shorthand to get you started
Top Tip *1
The first thing you should do when you get your script is read it out-loud. Don’t be mute and read it to yourself. Vocalising it gives your engineer and best friend time to set up a sound, the client will get excited as the session has officially started and it gives you the much needed time to mark your script and put your teeth in before you record and the red light switches on.
Top Tip *2
Before you start to mark your script, simply ask your client what they have in mind and if there’s any particular read on your demo that they like. Never be afraid to ask questions on a session as it saves a lot of time trying to understanding what vocal style, attitude & melody they want for their project and really help the way you mark your script. Do they want you to contract words like it is to it’s to sound more relaxed for example. Also a corporate or technical narration may require more pauses or a slower pace so the listener can take in the information more easily if it’s to be recorded to picture.
Top Tip *3
It may sound obvious, but always mark your script in pencil and not pen. This allows you to rub out your markings easily and make new changes when given alternative direction. Make as few markings as possible. Too many on a page will cause your brain to go into thinking or reading mode and will make your delivery sound thoughtful and placed. A lot of studios now use iPads, with an app like Iannotate and a tablet pen that allows you to mark your script. This also has the added advantage of no page turns and being ably to increase the font size to whatever works for you.
Top Tip *4
At the end of your session hand your script back to your client or engineer. Never take it with you. Some scripts contain sensitive information and it would be disaster if someone outside of the session got hold of it because you lost it on your way home. When doing a test or audition, remember to erase all of your markings when your turn is over. You don’t want to give away your “given direction” to any other voice over artist who may be auditioning for the same job that happens to stumble across your discarded script and markings lying around the booth.
Top Tip *5
Always write the clients, engineer and voice producers’ names on the top right hand corner of your script. It’s very embarrassing if you forget their names in the booth and even better if you use them for direct conversation during your session as it shows you have been listening. Make it personal and professional and you get invited back!
You can mark your script in any way you want as the only person that needs to understand them is you. However when starting out, you can choose to use a basic set of well tested markings used by working voices out there that will help you create a map and successfully navigate any script.
Breath & Pause
Often there’s nowhere for you to take a breath in a script. You need to breath or you fall over. You can use a double slash to breath and a single slash for a pause and allow your audience to take in what you have just said.
Upward & Downward Arrows
There are times in a script when you might want to change your pitch on a particular word to change it’s tone. Simply use upward or downward arrows for an up or downward inflection on syllable or word.
Underline any words that may need more emphasis to remind you that you need to place extra weight on that word. Remember, stressing a word is not only about increasing it’s volume it could also indicate changing it’s pitch. A double underline can indicate more emphasis is needed. You can also underline the beginning or end of any phrase you need to stress or hit.
Vocal Melodic Movement and variety is so important to finding a natural and conversational delivery. Simply use a wavy line to remind you to modulate your voice as in every day conversation.
You can use small circles to identify any plosives and larger ones to identify any words you’re not sure how to pronounce, like a company name, medical term or place name. You can also use boxes, lines, squares, dots, brackets. It’s your choice.
Writing capital letters next to phrases in your script can help you find a change in attitude or find a different emotion. For example: “H” for happy, “S” for softer, “F” for friendly, “C” for confident etc. Use whatever works for you.
Marking your script can take a few minutes but it is time well spent and a habit you should get used to. It gives you visual cues that will bring your script to “life”.